Customers waiting for the Saddleback College farmers market to open. (Chloe Hernandez/Lariat)
There is a hidden gem tucked away in the village of Saddleback College – the local Farmer’s Market. Ran by volunteers, the market provides the community with both locally grown and store bought food products. Located across the way from the currently-in-construction stadium, the market shares space with a small student-ran garden and acts as a scene of tranquility among the ugliness of construction.
“Everyone comes from a whole bunch of different places, and I think everyone financially appreciates some help,” said a market volunteer who wished to remain anonymous.
The products at this market are priced competitively in regards to the normal grocery store, a factor that is quite helpful for those looking for a balanced diet on a budget.
The process is simple- sign your name, obtain a number, and wait in line. From there, the market runs smoothly as shoppers move down the line in an orderly single file. Don’t let the small size of the market fool you, with only just over a dozen tables they are able to provide fresh fruit, packaged snacks, a wide range of greens and other vegetables, eggs galore, and a hefty stock of dairy products.
In a time when food prices have seemed to be on a continuous rise, small resources such as this market serve as a safe haven for those who need something to fall back on.
“I couldn’t function without the help of them bringing food here,” said the same anonymous market volunteer.
With a spotlight being shined on sustainable alternatives to food consumption over the last few years, local farmers markets have been on the rise. Spotted all throughout Orange County, they serve as a sustainable and often cost effective alternative to normal grocery stores.
One trend of sustainability apparent at the Saddleback farmers market is the abundance of reusable tote bags instead of single-use plastic. These bags are an inexpensive and alternative to the “reusable” plastic bags that far too often get thrown away instead of reused.
After the Mission Viejo farmer’s market at the Civic Center stopped operations, the Saddleback market has served as a respectable replacement. The foot traffic was much larger at the Civic Center, but that comes as a result of a large majority of that has dispersed to markets in other cities, such as Irvine, Dana Point and Laguna Beach.
The benefits farmers markets have on the community are almost immediately apparent. At the Saddleback market, there is a palpable sense of community as all the customers are chatting while in line as though they have built a relationship by being returning customers. Additionally, an increase of farmers markets has also strengthened the influence of local farmers, and made it easier for customers to have access to locally grown products.
“The small customer base who attends the market really are welcoming and helpful to each other,” said Melanie Barker, regular attendee of the farmer’s market. “I only wish it would grow in numbers because it is a tool many would benefit from but are unaware of its existence.”
“I have been able to make acquaintances with people of all ages,” said Davis Miller. “It’s like a small group of us that’s gets to come together a couple times a month, a simple thing to look forward to.”
The Saddleback College farmers market is a must see. It operates every 1st and 3rd Wed. of the month in front of VIL 3 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Stop by, bring a reusable bag, and help contribute to the Mission Viejo community.